Friday, December 31, 2010

Also on the Needles

I do have a couple of little projects on the needles, as well, for some instant gratification knitting. Unfortunately I have so many projects on the go that nothing is really very "instant" anymore.

I got this Tanis Fiber Arts blue label sock yarn in a sock club a couple of years ago. It is a colourway that she doesn't normally dye, called In the Navy. Really more of a royal blue with a bit of navy in it. I tried it first with the Tern socks from Twist Collective, but the pattern got lost in the variegation of the yarn, so I ripped them back and decided to try one of Cat Bordhi's different sock architectures. These particular ones have a little slit in the back of the cuff, which is perfect, since it will give my calves a bit more breathing room. I could also fold the cuff down on one side, in a jaunty way, but really, who needs their socks to be that jaunty?

The socks have been hibernating since I started my two cardigans, but I picked them up last night and enjoyed knitting a bit more of the leg.

Not quite done in time for the holidays, I began a lightweight little scarf in a candy cane stripe. I had some leftover laceweight in both red and white that I've been loath to part with, so when I got the idea of knitting a scarf in thin little stripes on the bias like a candy cane, I thought it was ingenious. Again, I got too distracted to finish it in time to wear it for this year's holiday season, but I'll put a few more hours into it and block it and it will be ready for next year.

Not to forget that there is another pair of socks on the needles, but they are pretty stalled, as well. I really need to get them finished, too. I am displaying a lack of self-discipline that doesn't bode well for my future career as a knitwear designer, you know?

Well, you can probably guess what I'll be doing all night, tonight, while watching a movie marathon. Or maybe a Misfits marathon...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On the Needles

I noticed that I've been getting lazy about showing things that I'm working on. A few of them are big projects, and I always try to wait for them to be photogenic before I post something. Sometimes they aren't really photogenic until they are finished, though. Here are a few candid photos of what I have on the needles, right now.

The latest shawl in progress, the Bridgewater shawl by Jared Flood. It has a garter stitch square for a center (very meditative and enjoyable) that is knit diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner, with increases and decreases along the sides to shape the square. Then you pick up a border around the edges of the square, and knit a lace border. I'm at that part of the pattern, which is why it looks like an amoeba. I admit I haven't been working on it much, of late. There are a couple of other things that are taking up my attention.

One of those is a plain stockingette cardigan in black and boysenberry stripes. I had some black worsted wool in my stash, but only half what I needed to make myself a sweater. Of course I immediately thought of using it with another colour, doing a nice wide stripe on a basic cardigan, and got some yarn in this beautiful boysenberry colour to cast on. I'm using EZ's percentage system from Knitting Workshop, and making a steek up the front to cut apart into a cardigan after knitting the body. I am also going to use her formula for circular set-in sleeves to see how that works. And I'm "complicating matters" with a v-neck, as she puts it. "The techniques are simple, but would gum up directions for your first circular set-in sleeve to an intolerable degree." I do love complicating matters.

The other large project I'm working on is another cardigan, the Traveling Sweater that all the Blue Moonies are in love with. This one is a more interesting construction: short row wedges that form a circle of ribbing, with sleeves and upper-back knit separately and attached. I am just past one-fourth of the circular ribbing. It's simple enough, and the yarn is soft and lovely wool/bamboo. I'm still enjoying it, but I might be cursing 2x2 ribbing in another week or three.

Well, those are the big projects. I will show you the smaller ones, too, one day soon. Maybe even a finished one. Well, I can dream, anyway.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sunshine Plaid Towels

Just in time for holiday gifting, I finished my towels. There were three in total, and on Sunday night, I finished the weaving, zigzagged the hems, cut them apart, sewed the hems down, machine washed them, and then ironed them partially dry before laying them flat to dry overnight. Then on Monday morning, I folded one up and gave it away. Phew. The other two will be going to new homes, as well, which means I still won't know, firsthand, how well they will work to dry dishes. I will have to trust others' opinions on that, at least for now. I believe I mentioned previously that I have more of the cotton/linen blend that I will make more towels with, sometime soon. Perhaps I will keep some of those to try them out.

After washing, the fabric softened up and fluffed up, and now it has quite a nice soft hand. The selvedges evened up a bit, too, which is nice. While I was weaving, the warp threads along either side of the cloth were looser than the ones in the middle (despite me trying to fix this prior to weaving.) I was worried that the selvedges would end up wobbly because of it, but they looked okay off the loom and even better once washed. As per usual, finishing can hide many errors.

There were a few errors, alas, that I noticed on the underside of at least one of the towels, where a few warp threads were skipped and left a little block of threads. I think it gives the towels character. It certainly proves they were handmade.

My biggest lesson with these towels was in changing weft colours (and frequently.) I mostly just wove in the starting tail in the next shed, but left the finishing tails hanging. I am a bit worried about it, since I don't know how well the cut ends will stay in place. I certainly don't want them developing holes along that selvedge, especially as they are gifts. I am placing my trust in more experienced weavers, who say that it will work out.

Overall, I did enjoy this pattern. The repetitive nature of the blocks kept me wanting to weave Just One More, and they also gave a way to gauge how far I had woven, without the fuss of trying to measure the cloth before it wound around the beam. I will, however, be taking a break from plaid to go back to something simpler (one colour in the warp, one in the weft) for some little facecloths in the leftover cotton/linen. I am going to sample a few patterns I invented, and see how they turn out. Then maybe back to the plaid for that woven blanket I had planned...?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Woodruff Mittens

I have a pair of mittens that I have been wearing every day in winter for a few years now. They are stranded sportweight alpaca, knitted in this Norwegian mitten pattern that I copied once from the real deal. Unfortunately a few weeks ago, these mittens developed a little hole at the end of one of my fingers. I could darn them, but frankly, it's been a few years and I'm ready for a little change. By "little", I mean that I am actually going to knit the same mittens in the same yarn but with different colours. I know, I'm off the rails this time. Before I take on that project, though, I wanted a quick pair of worsted weight wool mittens to keep my exposed finger warm for the time it takes to knit another pair of stranded alpaca ones. I mean, with the rate I am being distracted by casting on for shiny new projects, it might be a while before they're finished.

A couple of weeks ago at our coffee shop knit night, I took some pink worsted weight and started a free pattern from Ravelry. Two or three inches after the cuff I decided that they weren't the right ones, and I frogged them back completely to try something else. Like everyone else, I have been watching Jared Flood's blog to watch the pretty photos of his latest patterns in his beautiful new yarn. I decided to give his Woodruff mittens a whirl, with the pink Ella Rae Classic that I had selected from my stash. A week later, I was very happily wearing them. The only thing I changed was to add a couple more purl welts to the wrist, to make it a bit longer, safely tucked into my coat.

I love the look of the bobbles and twisted stitch cables, and the moss stitch palm and thumb are tactile and comfortable. The weather has been mild and they have been warm enough, but certainly nothing compared to the stranded alpaca mitts I'm used to. I'll have to get to those, right after I finish my shawl... and that cardigan... and the other cardigan... and those socks... oh, and the other socks... Yoiks, I'd better get to it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Unselfish Hat

Despite my generally selfish crafty nature, every once in a while I get a soft spot in my heart for someone who requests an item from me, particularly if it's a quick and simple project like a toque.

A year ago, one of my coworkers asked me for a hat. I asked for specifics, and he said he'd think about it. A week or so ago, he finally sent me a photo of a hat and said he wanted that one. I got some appropriate yarn (elann's Peruvian Highland wool, one of my staples for worsted weight wool) and knit it up.

It's just a really basic hat, with about an inch of 1x1 rib at the bottom and then stockingette stripes: 4 rounds natural, 4 rounds green, 4 rounds natural, 1 round brown.

Simple, easy, done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baking Whoopie

Suddenly today I had a craving for whoopie pies. They've been all over blogland for ages, but today they got in my head and wouldn't go away. I did some internet searching to find a recipe that I liked, and I found this one at the Omnomicon which is apparently an old family recipe. A bonus of being a bakerly type person is that I have all that stuff in my apartment, at the ready, and nothing keeping me from combining them into some fluffy little treasures.

In no time flat, I had made some perfect little round cakey cookies and a bowl of creamy sweet filling and sandwiched them all together. I might have eaten one before the rest were all assembled. Just what the doctor ordered. I mean, if the doctor was PMS. Which it is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Futurella Quilt

I know it's been the better part of a year since you last laid eyes on the Futurella quilt -- what can I say? Some projects move slower than others, chez crafty.

I had the top sewn together by the summer, but didn't get around to adding the borders until fall, and then a couple of weeks back, I finally laid it all out and basted and quilted it and put the binding on. Finis.

It is already gone to the recipient, or I would have taken some more close up photos, to show the border fabrics (a deep pink animal print, a matching yellow animal print, and a greyish green hexagon print) and the pretty backing fabric (white with little pink polka dots.) It came together pretty well, and fluffed up nicely after a washing.

I'm not completely satisfied with the way the hexagons are laid out, in the end. I think I could have done some more rearranging to improve it. It's my own fault, for not leaving it up for a few days (or a week) while I was in the planning stages. It's always good to mull it over, rather than just deciding it's done. Or maybe I'm just a perfectionist.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sunshine on the Loom

I decided a while ago to try my hand at weaving some dishtowels, so I found a draft on Webs and ordered the yarn to go with it, thinking I might give them away for the holidays.

The yarn is a nice cotton linen blend, so hopefully will make for nice thirsty towels, but I won't know that until I finish them and get them off the loom to give them a try. It's the first time I've woven with a linen blend, and I'm liking it so far. Linen can be tricky to weave with, apparently, especially in a pure linen yarn, since it is stiff. This yarn is half cotton and half linen, and while it has some of the stiffness and scratchiness of linen, it also has a lot of the softness and ease of cotton, so I am having a pretty easy time of it.

I chose four colours -- a nice bright yellow for the background, with red and orange and blue stripes. I was aiming for some bright primary colours to make some happy towels. The orange turned out to be a bit too close to the red (in the photo, the orange is the wide stripe on the side, and the red is in the narrower stripes. Clearly they are awfully close.) I'm also not so sure about putting the blue through the middle of the orange stripes. When it comes to colour planning, live and learn. Other than that, I think the design is turning out to be what I wanted -- happy and stripey and cool.

I am over halfway done the first of three towels. If they turn out well, I may just tie on another warp and make another set using some different colours. Or I may try something completely different, instead.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tiny Sweater

At my workplace, there is currently a contest to make ornaments for the staff Christmas tree, with some undisclosed prize to be given to the winner. I don't have much of a competitive nature, but I have a lot of a crafty nature, so I spent my coffee and lunch breaks for a few days working on a tiny little green sweater for the tree. I used some leftover KnitPicks Stroll on US1 needles and cast on 48 stitches around for the body. It ended up about three inches across, which is what I was aiming for.

I put three little cables up the front and back just for some interest, and made a little turtleneck collar, which is perhaps not quite tall enough to call a turtleneck, but who's counting.

I think it turned out pretty cute, and it definitely looks great on the tree -- bring on the competition!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Girlie Friday

Well, it might have taken me forever to knit this cardigan, but it's finished now, and it's super snuggly and comfortable, and well worth the effort.

A pretty simple (and free) pattern from Knitty, it wouldn't have taken me long to finish this, if I weren't so easily distracted by every impulse to start a new project. I was admittedly a bit intimidated by the idea of altering the pattern to knit the yoke all in one piece, with set-in sleeves, but once I got going on it, it was easy enough. I even added a few decreases to the fronts & back, to make the width from shoulder to shoulder a bit narrower.

I wet blocked it after everything was seamed and tried it on and was worried that I might need to reblock it a bit wider for it to fit the way I wanted. I decided to knit an extra inch of ribbing on the collar and buttonbands, just to give a little more width. Then I got a bit bored with 1x1 ribbing, and let it languish a while longer before finally picking it up and getting it over with.

I was planning to wet block it again after finishing the collar and buttonband, to tidy things up, but once I had it off the needles and tried it on, I wasn't convinced it needed it. I took a steam iron to it to make it lie better, but that's all.

I have to say that I am really happy with this cardi: the colour, the texture, the fit, the warmth. Between the ample collar and the long ribbed cuffs, it is plenty cozy and I really think that all of you should print off the pattern and knit your own. You will thank me, later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mise en Place

I am feeling really good about my crafty accomplishments this week. I am this close to finishing a quilt, even closer to finishing Girlie Friday, and making good progress on yet another lacy shawl (or two) that I haven't even shown you, yet. I even wound a warp for a sweet weaving project that I'm going to put on the loom, tomorrow.

But tonight, I'm going to take a crack at some Indian cooking. Look at that, all ready to go. There will be leftovers, if you want to pop over, tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Planning Stages

I mentioned a while ago that I've mentally reassigned a big bag of wool I have to a woven blanket (rather than the tweedy jacket I've had in hibernation for a few years.) I have a few colours of the wool (black, white, oxblood, brick, and peach) and am trying to imagine how to make a cool blanket out of what I have. Since my loom is only 27" wide, I can't make a single layer of fabric wider than that (and I'm not quite ready to tackle doubleweave just yet) so I'm going to weave two panels and sew them together, to made a wider lap blanket. I've been imagining different designs, stripes, etc, and different weaving patterns. I had initially thought I'd do the warp in the three shades of red/orange, in wide stripes (to make it easy) and weave each panel in either black or white, rather than switching colours in the weft (to make it even easier) but I just don't think that will look as nice as if I overcomplicate things (as is my usual choice.)

So I downloaded a free demo of Pixeloom, this great weaving software that has recently come out with a Mac version, and played with a few ideas. In particular, I found that the white yarn, when used as a weft with the others as warp, tended to wash the colours out, and didn't look as good as the black. I thought maybe I'd leave the white out, altogether, and see how that looks. So I came up with a pretty simple striped warp in a pretty simple twill weave, which makes a cool sort of plaid when repeated in the weft (click to zoom):

I like it a lot, but having played for so many hours with the tartan design website, long ago, I know what a difference just a smidgen of a shocking contrast colour can make, so I decided to try adding a narrower stripe of white between the other colours:

I think it really makes the fabric three-dimensional, and adds a lot to it. Now I just have to sit down and do the math to figure out how much of each colour I need for warp and weft, and whether this pattern is doable with what I have in my stash. I hope I do -- I think this might look pretty cool when I'm done.

(Don't get too excited, though. I have one more weaving project to make before I get around to this one. Patience, padawan.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Happy Discovery

I made a discovery at work, recently, and completely by accident. I was in need of some basic sunflower oil for cooking, and I was drawn to a lovely looking bottle by a Canadian company called Maison Orphee. Once I got it home and opened it, I was delighted to find it had a beautiful sunflower seed aroma. Bear in mind that I have used a lot of sunflower oils in my day and I have never had one that was fragrant like that. Of course I tasted it, and it also has a lovely strong sunflower taste. What a perfect oil for salads or vegetables! Needless to say, I have been using it ever since. I made some cinnamon buns with it and while the dough was deliciously scented with sunflower as it rose, the scent and taste were not noticeable once the buns were baked, perhaps because of the overriding cinnamon flavour.

The other night I decided to make a carrot cake. I gathered a lovely bunch of organic carrots and set some cream cheese out to soften, and opened my precious bottle of sunflower oil.

I was happy to discover that there is a subtle nutty sunflower flavour in the finished cake. I left out any walnuts or pineapple or icky raisins or anything else people dump into carrot cake, so the texture is relatively smooth and the flavour really comes through. Even better is a big thick slice with cream cheese icing and a scattering of fresh raw walnuts on top. Bliss.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Some Greenish Socks

These socks were the first chance I had to try out Sanguine Gryphon's Skinny Bugga sock yarn, which is a decadent merino/cashmere/nylon blend, and it certainly won't be the last time I use it. The yarn is very soft and strong and round (perfect for cables) and of course the colours from Sanguine Gryphon are always spectacular.

This particular colour is called Goldenrod Crab Spider (and if you look up that particular kind of spider, it really is that crazy colour.) I love the way the yarn is such a shocking greenish yellow -- not the sort of colour I would usually use, but I really enjoyed it while I was knitting.

I also have a fair bit of it left over, so there will be a lot of crazy yellow crocheted hexagons in my ongoing blankie.

As for the pattern: it was simple enough, basically a 2x2 rib with cables every sixth round. The cables were a bit fiddly, since you are crossing the two knit ribs while leaving the purls in the center. I found that the cables really took away from the stretchiness of the resulting fabric, and I had to make a larger size sock (with a larger gauge needle) than I would have had to, if it were simply ribbing. In the end, they are lovely and soft (and bright!) for cold winter months to come.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Green Scarf

Although I have been remiss about blogging, I did finish that scarf in no time flat. I dressed the loom on a Saturday morning and did a bit of weaving throughout that day. After I worked all day on Sunday, I came home and finished the weaving, then cut it off the loom, tied some fringe and gave it a bit of a soaking and blocking.

Monday morning I woke up to snow on the ground, so I grabbed my new scarf off the floor and was nice and warm for the walk to work.

The washing and blocking certainly helped to plump up the yarn and hide my uneven beating. While it was under tension on the loom, I could really see the difference in my weaving tension -- sometimes the rows of weft yarn would be spaced closer together or further apart. It's the first time I've woven with wool, so I'm not used to how grabby it is. Cotton or bamboo yarns are smoother and slide against each other, which helps with consistency, I think. Also, I've previously woven at a tighter sett (with the yarns all closer together, with respect to the diameter of the yarn) so I have been more used to beating each weft in pretty solidly. Weaving at a looser sett takes a gentler hand, since you don't beat the weft so much as coax it into place.

It was certainly a learning experience, and I am looking at all of my stash yarns again with a different eye -- not just for knitting possibilities, but also for weaving ones. I have already decided to reassign one big bag of wool from a hibernating knitting project to a multicoloured woven afghan.

I have many other projects on the go, as well, of course. I will get some more photos up, soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finding the Weaving Groove

Those of you who have been reading a while may remember my table loom, Miss Bennet. For the last year and a half, she's been sitting folded up and unused (because I didn't have anywhere to set her up) but today I finally dusted her off and opened her up. This morning I wound a warp for a green wool scarf, and dressed the loom for weaving. I did a bit of sampling for practice, and once I'd found my rhythm, I started weaving the scarf. It's pretty wide at the moment (nearly twelve inches) but I'm sure that between draw-in (the tension of weaving that pulls in at the sides of the cloth) and fulling it after I take it off the loom, it will be somewhat narrower after.

You can see it's a simple pattern, bands of plain weave surrounding bands of basketweave. A simple design to thread and weave, to help me find that groove of weaving, after a year off. Still, I have to admit that I find even this simple design pretty exciting. Hopefully it will turn out to be a nice scarf when I'm done.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chicken, Cheesecake, Octopus

I have definitely gotten back into my cooking groove, lately. It may have been sparked by the great Thanksgiving meal my HLM and I made last week (with not only pumpkin pie, but also accompanied by my favourite delicious banana bread.) My groove was certainly helped along with some excellent garlic-marinated barbequed pork chops with some homemade porcini mushroom sauce, a few nights ago. Sorry, no photos -- that food is all long gone, now.

Autumn appears to be in full swing, here, so tonight I decided I wanted some comfort food to warm myself up. I saw a recipe somewhere today for a chicken pot pie with leeks and mushrooms, and decided that I didn't really need a recipe to make it, so I came home and improvised this one. It didn't take that long, and I think it's going to be something I revisit again and again this winter.

I did wuss out and use a frozen pie crust. Don't judge me -- I made one from scratch for the pumpkin pie last week, I promise.

It looks a bit messier on the plate, but it still tasted pretty great. Just a hint of thyme and sage really fill out the flavours. Yum.

Then, last week I got a craving for cheesecake, so I pulled out a recipe for Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, taken from Junior's Deli in NYC. I have wanted to go there and eat their cheesecake ever since I learned of them in Tom Robbins' Still Life With Woodpecker:

Who knows how to make love stay?
  1. Tell love you are going to Junior's Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.
  2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.
  3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.

But I digress. The main difference with a Junior's cheesecake is the crust -- you will find no graham wafers, here (and good riddance!) Junior's makes a very thin sponge cake for the crust, and then loads a bunch of delicious fluffy cheesecake on top. I have to admit that I was skeptical at every stage of this cheesecake. I wasn't sure that the crust turned out right, and then I wasn't sure that the cheesecake batter baked properly, and basically I just made it and crossed my fingers and stored it in the fridge overnight. The next day I cut myself a slice, and as the knife went through, I could tell it was going to be fluffy and perfect. I wish you could taste it. I am definitely a convert to the Junior's way of doing things.

Lastly, in knitting news, I have made an octopus. Okay, not quite -- only five arms, I know. I have finished knitting the main part of Girlie Friday, and have sewn the sleeve seams already (and tried it on, I will admit. I didn't want to take it off; the sleeves alone were so warm and cozy.) Tonight I will sew the side seams and then wet block it. Tomorrow I will pick up the stitches for the collar/front bands and see how that goes. On the home stretch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Frog or Not to Frog

A week or so ago, I got it into my head that I needed to knit some new mittens. I found a cute design on Ravelry and dug out some stash Cascade 220 in some cool contrasting colours, and decided to jump in.

In the past, the mittens I have knit have always had a snug little ribbed cuff that clings to the wrist. These mittens are of the style where there is no shaping between arm and wrist and hand, but have a little thumb gore that you make on the side and then pick up thumb stitches when you're done the hand.

Here's the thing: It fits a bit snug in the arm, where the knitted braids sit, and a bit loose in the hand, which is okay, too. The wrist -- the wrist is where the problem lies. Since it's the same size as the hand and arm, it's really floppy there, and I don't really like it. I don't like it to the point that I'm not sure if I'll wear the mittens.

I am hoping that blocking might help -- it'll make the hand and arm fit better, I'm sure, and while I can't do much about making the wrist fit better, at least the fabric will be even and flat and lovely, there, with better drape. Maybe that will make enough of a difference.

Certainly it can't be argued that they are cute mittens with adorable robots on them, and that the double-layer of worsted weight wool will make them super warm. The only question is: should I carry on and finish knitting them and block them in the hopes that I will learn to love them or should I call it a day and frog them and make a different pair?

There is something that I dislike about frogging a project -- is it about admitting defeat, or about feeling like I'm somehow letting the project down by not finishing it? I suppose I'm just being neurotic, either way.

What do you think? To frog or not to frog?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

The weather today was sorta cool, sorta warm, sorta cloudy, sorta rainy. In other words, a perfect day for some roast chicken. Having recently watched a great video for a recipe on skillet-cooked chicken with a lovely herb sauce, I decided that today was the day to try it out.

Verdict: easy & delicious.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

That Sort of Sunday

Have you ever had the sort of Sunday where you make bread pudding for supper? (Please take a moment to admire those browned crusty bits poking out the top, which somehow soaked up the sweet eggy mixture and then caramelized in the oven into something truly heavenly.)

The sort of Sunday, I mean, where you drown it in warm whiskey sauce and then curl up on the sofa to eat and knit and watch the latest episode of Rubicon?

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I came upon this charming little movie on the interwebs and had to share.

(edited to try to make the darn thing fit.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cables for a Kindle

A month or so ago, I decided I need a Kindle. I found myself poking around amazon one night, and somehow got drawn in by the little videos about their latest model, with all the upgrades and improvements. At the time, they weren't yet available; if they had been, I would probably have ordered one right then. That's how things work when I'm home alone, websurfing at night, with little willpower. I'm sure one or two of you might relate.

When my HLM got home, he reminded me that he has one of the second-generation Kindles that he got for a gift, and doesn't use it much. He offered to let me use it, and I happily took him up on it (even though I'm still secretly thinking I should get a new one -- I mean, the upgrades!)

So reading books on the Kindle has become my latest distraction while pedaling away on the stationary bike. I'm enjoying it a lot, although it's perhaps a bit too quick and easy to wirelessly download books, which might be encouraging my tendency to thoughtlessly overspend. It does mean I've been reading more lately than I have in a long time, so perhaps it's okay, anyway.

Thing is, if I want to bring the Kindle along with me (like to continue reading the book at work, for example) I have to put it in my purse, alongside keys and pens and lip balm and all manner of things that could muck it up one way or another. A more dedicated consumer would spend anywhere from $30 to $200 for a Kindle cover on amazon. As a stashbusting knitter, I immediately thought of a knitted sleeve for it. I had recently been going through my Vogue Stitchionary of cables, looking for inspiration, and decided to modify one of the asymmetrical cables to use on a Kindle sleeve. I didn't make a gauge swatch, but just started and restarted it a few times (changing needle sizes, adding stitches) until I was happy with it. I made a little chart for the cable to make the two sides mirror-images of one another, and thought I had the two sides spaced evenly, vertically, but it turns out I didn't. Then again, since the cable is asymmetrical, anyway, I suppose it doesn't hurt to have the two of them staggered asymmetrically, as well.

To sum up: I used up the last ball of Sublime Cashmere Silk Merino that I had hanging around, and our Kindle is protected from damage. Win-win.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spot Check Socks

Despite falling off the face of blogland for a couple of weeks, I have nevertheless been crafting. I started a couple of new projects, and finished the second sock of this pair.

As I mentioned once before, I think, these are the Spot Check socks from the book Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn, and I made them with one wee skein of brightly coloured Koigu and a half a skein (or so) of deep dark brown Malabrigo sock, the two of which combined make them more than a little on the decadent side.

They are also super-warm, being two-stranded throughout the leg and foot. My mom is worried that my toes will get cold.

In fact, while I was knitting them, I thought it was a bit funny that the toes and heels were single-stranded, since those are so often the part of the sock that wears out first. Perhaps a smarter knitter would do the same double stranded pattern over the toe, as well, but using two ends of that same colour?

I have a few contenders for a second pair, using the other matching skein of Koigu that I have left over, but I'm not sure how crazy to take it. There are a lot of pairs of Spot Check socks on Ravelry that use two yarns that don't contrast as well, and the pattern is somewhat lost. One of the things I love most about this design is how well the variegated yarn stands out -- each little stitch is like a jewel of one pure colour. I'm not sure if I have anything in my stash (beyond black or white) that would let the pattern show up that well again.

More show and tell tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spot on

Yesterday afternoon, I finished the first one of the Spot Check socks. The photo includes the remaining Koigu to show two things:

1. that yarn is just as crazy as I said it was, and the sock pattern really tones down the crazy to something more reasonable.

2. the first sock used less than half a ball of the Koigu (yes, I weighed it) so I will be able to make the whole pair of socks using just one skein -- I will have another skein left to make a pair with a different background colour. I like this colourway with the brown, since it gives a bit of a 70s feel to the colour palette, but I would like it with black, too, I think (more 80s?) or maybe even something completely different.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Heart Beets 4U Socks

As I mentioned earlier, I finished these socks a few days ago, but got completely caught up in the next pair and neglected to blog about them.

The yarn I used is the last Rockin' Sock Club shipment, called Firecracker -- a bunch of lovely reds and purples which reminded a lot of people of a harvest of beets, which is one of the reasons that this pattern was called "My Heart Beets 4U."

The other reason, of course, is because there is a big garter stitch beet on the heel of the sock, which then spirals up into faux cables like beet greens sticking out the top of it. So cute!

It was this beet on the heel which cinched for me which sock I wanted to knit from the July shipment. While the other pattern was also lovely (and I'll probably knit it another day with another yarn) the beets were calling to me. (Yeah, I really love beets.)

The rest of the sock was the same simple faux cable, composed of yarnovers and decreases set up in such a way that the stitches seemed to twist like knitted cables, but rather than making the fabric tighter because of crossed stitches, it left it stretchier because of the yarnovers. Because of this, I once again chose to knit a medium foot, although I did the heel flap a bit longer (the length specified for the Large size) which gave me a little more wiggle room in the instep.

They fit very well and are completely gaudy and unreasonable. And they make me crave some of grandma's borscht.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Still On About Variegated Yarns

There are a few skeins in my yarn stash that I bought on impulse, because I was really drawn to the colours in them, when I first saw them. Sometimes I am pretty stumped about how to use them, though, and they just sit around for a long time while I ponder one possibility or another.

This week I had a sudden epiphany to use one of the brightest rainbow skeins of Koigu KPPPM that I have to make a pair of socks from the book Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn. It's a pretty simple pattern, where you alternate stitches of variegated yarn with stitches of solid yarn, to break up some of the craziness of the variegated. As you can see, it really works to tone down what would otherwise be a pretty eye-searing rainbow of Koigu.

The solid I'm using is Malabrigo sock (so delicious and soft) in a deep dark reddish-brown called Cordovan. To be honest, I wasn't sure how I was going to use this skein, either, since I felt the colour was too dark to show a stitch pattern very well. Fortunately I know from my weaving colour theory that dark colours work well with brights, leaving them as eye-popping as they originally were (as opposed to lighter colours, which tend to wash out brights when used together.) Since this stitch pattern alternates the two yarns, it gives an appearance similar to a plain weave using the same colours, so I was pretty sure my theories would play out well in reality. I am pretty excited about these -- in fact, I finished my Beet socks this afternoon and immediately cast on for these ones; I think the needles were still warm. What can I say? I'm a woman obsessed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Twisty Knitting

Amongst my various projects, I have been continuing to work on my second pair of twisted stitch socks. I think we can all agree that the new yarn is showing the stitch pattern much more clearly, and I can vouch for it being way less splitty for this type of knitting. I am just up to the heel flap on the first sock, which means things are about to get easier -- no twisty stitches on the heel flap (although I briefly considered keeping the patterns going there) and then the sole of the foot will be stockingette, so I will only be doing the twisted stitch pattern for half the stitches.

The side of the leg is also great -- you can see the way the travelling stitches make a cool motif, the way they come together and spread out. The effect is less apparent on the front and back of the leg, because the patterns are spaced so much further apart.

I think it looks pretty good, so far, although I admit that I might like the first sock pattern better. This one seems a bit blocky, perhaps? What do you think?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Impractical Love Affair

I will admit it: I love variegated yarns. There's something about seeing a skein of yarn blending together a symphony of disparate colours that just makes me reach for my wallet. I love to just look at it, sitting in the basket on my wall, like a work of art, or to take it down and stroke its softness, to wonder at the way the colours meld together and complement each other.

Of course, yarn isn't meant only for looking at; it's also meant for knitting (or crocheting or weaving or whatever your thing is.) The thing is: sometimes once you wind that skein into a ball and start knitting with it, you might begin to think that it's lost its charm. The yarn may start to stripe in some weird way, or to pool colours into big blobs, and you might look at it and wrinkle your nose at the way it's distracting from the stitch patterns. I mean, face it -- sometimes variegated yarns don't make the nicest end products.

With that in mind (and because of my self-imposed yarn diet) I've been plugging away, this year, at using up all of the variegated yarns I bought back when I was so enamored of them. I decided that perhaps semi-solids are more my thing, since they show off fancy patterns more, and don't look so (dare I say) gaudy when you wear the end product.

What I inadvertently discovered is that I really love variegated yarns. I realized that the joy of knitting a pair of socks is only partly that you get to wear them and show them off when they're done. There is also so much joy and pleasure in the quiet hours and hours (and hours) of meditatively knitting them, of seeing one colour parade after another along my needles, of making each little loop and watching how the change from magenta to coral makes this fantastic fade of rosy pink for just a moment in the middle. To see each of the colours I love slide past my finger and onto the needles never ceases to amaze me.

Some people wonder why sock knitters don't buy the $1 sport socks at department stores. Why would I want to deny myself hours and hours of pleasure, soaking in the saturated myriad of colours in a skein of sock yarn, not to mention the satisfaction and comfort of wearing custom-sized socks that I made myself, just to save a few bucks? Besides, what you might spend on going to see a film that will entertain you for a couple of hours, I will gladly spend on a skein of variegated sock yarn, that I get to enjoy for days or weeks as I knit it, and for months or years as I wear the gaudy stripey colour-blobby socks, afterward.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Impulse Cardigan

While knitting on my new little sock at the cafe, last week, I was struck by a sudden urge to knit a cardigan. Once I got home, I went through my favourites on Ravelry for inspiration, and was reminded of how much I love the Girl Friday cardigan from Knitty -- so casual, so comfy. I must have one.

I went through my Cascade 220 stash and decided to make it with this crazy lime green I have six skeins of. I wound some up and got ready to make a swatch, but upon closer inspection of the pattern, I realized that I would be one skein short. I did have seven skeins of rose pink set aside for another cardigan; when I looked at that pattern, I realized that I need eight skeins for that one, so the pink became my default for Girl Friday. I am really happy with the choice, although maybe it will be a bit of a Girlie Friday, instead. The pattern looks super squishy right now, but it will block out much flatter, and hopefully will look really cool.

By now, I have knit far past that photo: I am done the back up to the arm holes, and just past the ribbing on the fronts. I am planning to join the back, fronts, & sleeves all together above the armpit and knit it in one piece from there on, thus saving myself the effort of sewing the sleeves into the body, later. Call me lazy, but I think it's clever.

One (more) warm cozy cardigan, here I come.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Next Sock

When I chose the three motifs I used for my Real Love socks, I had a few other motifs on deck that I really liked together, and thought maybe I might make a second sock design using them. That time has come. I am planning this one out better than the first, and even making different sizes and stuff. I made up the charts and printed them off so that my own pair of socks will actually be a test of the pattern, as I write it.

Good thing I did, since I realized right away that the first row after the ribbed cuff is actually row 2 of the pattern, not row 1 -- whoops. I also noticed after knitting one repeat that the amount of travelling stitches in this sock draws the fabric in more than I expected, so the socks are going to be a bit too snug for a so-called Large. I also realized very quickly that this isn't the best yarn for this sort of a sock. It is a bit too splitty, which is somewhat aggravating for a travelling twisted stitch pattern. Perhaps aggravating is too strong a word -- but they are not relaxing and enjoyable, that's for sure. If that weren't enough, it is also getting quite a halo of fuzziness as I knit them, which I normally enjoy in my knitting, but in this case it is just going to obscure the lovely travelling stitch motifs, particularly after they are being worn.

So it will be back to the drawing board: rewrite the charts so the right row comes first, add a handful more stitches for a Large and make this chart the Medium, and begin again with a new yarn. I am going to use some sock yarn royalty for the second time around -- Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, in a spectacular ruby red grapefruit colour that will make my mouth water with every perfect little twisty stitch. Swoon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Charybdis Socks

Although I've been pretty preoccupied with other things this week, I've still managed the finishing touches on my Charybdis Socks.

They were a simple but satisfying knit -- I really only had to refer to the pattern once or twice during the whole thing. When I was knitting the second sock, I think I only referred to the first one, rather than using the pattern at all. They went fairly quickly (despite all appearances) and fit so nicely. If only the weather wasn't so warm, I would be wearing them right now. I think the various shades of blue really work well with this pattern, too -- they were designed with a sort of whirlpool theme, after all, and the stitch pattern is visible through the variegation but still lets the yarn shine.

Now that I am finished them, I have a new use for my size 2 needles: knitting the second pair of twisted-stitch socks I designed. I am pretty excited about them, and have already started writing up the pattern. Hopefully they turn out as nice as they are in my head.

By the way, almost 400 downloads of my first pattern, by now, and there are actually a couple of other pairs being knit, too. Check it out: